Lars Ulrich names Metallica’s British forefathers

Metallica remains one of the greatest gateway drugs into all things heavy metal. Whereas Black Sabbath may have suggested how heavy rock music could get, the thrash titans from the Bay Area crafted epic conceptual pieces across their glory years, making the hair-metal bands on MTV look like poodle-haired versions of The Partridge Family by comparison. Years before Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield got together, though, something similar was happening overseas.

In the wake of bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, some of the first British acts to follow in their wake became known as heavy metal, from Judas Priest to Motörhead. Although Priest may have been the first to claim the title of a heavy metal band, it wasn’t until the movement started spreading in the late ‘70s that the New Wave of British Heavy Metal came to fruition.

Though some soon-to-be MTV stars like Def Leppard came from this same music scene, a selection of the biggest names included acts like Diamond Head and later bands like Mercyful Fate, each of which played a huge role in Metallica’s development. When talking about his upbringing, Ulrich mentioned the new wave of British heavy metal is at the heart of his style, recalling in an Instagram post, “The new wave of British heavy metal is the main reason that there is Metallica. I was completely immersed and obsessed with this wave 79-81. When I met James, we connected on that, shared some of these songs, played them”.

While acts like Diamond Head never made a huge splash overseas, the main outlier of the entire scene was Iron Maiden, who would become one of the biggest bands in the world after Bruce Dickinson took over. Once Metallica came along, their interpretation of some of their heroes came from playing the same riffs mixed with a healthy dose of punk rock fury.

As the band went on, it’s easy to spot some of the little details that worked their way into Metallica’s stage show, including a huge statue of Lady Justice for their And Justice For All tour, an obvious nod to Maiden’s tradition of using their mascot Eddie during their shows. While Metallica eventually took all the glory by being one of the biggest metal acts of all time, they did find a few ways to pay it forward.

In the middle of their mainstream peak in the ‘90s, the band made a covers album Garage Inc, which was filled to the brim with some of their favourite songs from their heroes like Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil’ and a rapid-fire cover of Mercyful Fate songs that stretched out to nearly 11 minutes. That core part of their sound only continued on their later albums like 72 Seasons, which is practically a love letter to the songs they loved as kids.

As much as The New Wave of British Heavy Metal left an impression on Ulrich and Hetfield, it was up to them to take it to the next level, creating a style of metal nearly anyone could get behind. Metallica might be a musical force of nature, but without these bands to lay the groundwork for them, they would have never gotten out of the garage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like